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George Wright papers

 Collection — Multiple Collection Box: [35025042618799]
Identifier: Coll 778

Content Description

This collection contains a report written by Colonel George Wright documenting the Battle of Four Lakes, which occurred on September 1, 1858, and was one of the final battles of the Cour D'Alene War, the culminating conflict of the Yakima War between white settlers and a coalition of Native tribes including the Spokan, Yakama, Palus, and others. Wright wrote the report on September 6, 1858, from an encampment on the Spokane River in Washington Territory. In the report, he spoke of his troops as "gallant" and noted that he believed "Providence" had been on his side. In addition to detailing his troop movements and battle decisions, he noted the Native coalition's plans to entice the troops onto open plains for the battle, which, had they been successful, might have led to their victory. However, Wright's army, though laden with equipment and supplies and possessing inferior horsemanship, had superior firepower, and subsequently killed and scattered most of the Native men. The army troops sustained only one injury and no fatalities; the Native fighters suffered several casualties, included dozens wounded and at least seventeen to twenty men killed.


  • 6 September 1858


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time.

Conditions Governing Use

Property rights and copyrights reside with Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries. All requests for permission to publish collection materials must be submitted to Special Collections and University Archives.

Biographical / Historical

George Wright was born in October 1803 to Roswell and Jemima Wright, in Norfolk, Virginia. He served in numerous roles in the US Military, including in Florida in various wars against the Seminole Indian tribes; in Vera Cruz during the Mexican-American War; and on the US-Canada border. He was transferred to the West Coast in the 1850s, where he oversaw the construction of Fort Dalles, Oregon, fought in the Yakima War, and perpetrated numerous attacks on and massacres of Washington tribes, including at the Battle of Four Lakes, near Spokane. During the Civil War, he was appointed for a short time as the commanding officer of the Department of Oregon, before transferring to Southern California. Following the end of the war, he was appointed commanding officer of the newly organized Department of the Columbia, covering parts of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. He and his wife died in July 1865, en route to his new command when their steamship wrecked off the coast of Crescent City, California.

The Yakima War, 1855-1858, was a series of conflicts between the Yakama tribe and white settlers, primarily in sourthern Washington, but with isolated incidents in the northwest and eastern parts of the territory as well. The war began first with the killing of two Yakama women and an infant by white miners; some members of the Yakama tribe retaliated by killing a group of white settlers. When the United States sent in a Bureau of Indian Affairs agent to investigate the two incidents, members of the Yakama tribe the agent was traveling with killed him. The Yakama chief, Shumaway, immediately sent an ambassador to the US garrison at Fort Dalles in an attempt to forestall retaliation, but a Yakama council disagreed with the move and ordered preparations for war. Similarly, the US garrison also prepared for war. The following 3-4 years saw numerous battles, conflicts of power within both the US army and the Yakama tribe and others in their coalition, the involvement of other area tribes in collaboration with the US troops, and casualties on both sides, with the overwhelming majority suffered by the Yakama.

The war ended with a peace treaty which forced the removal of the Yakama people to reservations in Washington Territory, as well as the trial and hanging of numerous Yakama fighters.


0.1 linear feet (1 container) : 1 folder

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchase from Charles Apfelbaum, 2001.

Related Materials

Related material can be found in the following collection:

Cayuse, Yakima, and Rogue River Wars papers, Bx 047

Processing Information

Processed by Mahala Ruddell, February 2023.

Guide to the George Wright papers
George Wright papers
Complete Description
Mahala Ruddell
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives Repository

1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR 97403-1299 USA